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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Multi-Scale Data Assimilation of Satellite Altimetry for Realtime Current Prediction in Coastal Oceans


Zhijin Li - (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

  John Farrara
Dimitris Menemenlis
(California Institute of Technology - JPL)
(California Institute of Technology - JPL)


The objective of this project is to improve our capability of predicting coastal ocean currents on timescales of one to three days by assimilating multi-satellite altimetry data into high resolution models. High resolution realtime current predictions are of central importance to a wide spectrum of human activities. Among them are oil exploration and drilling operations, oil spill mitigation, shipping, and search and rescue. A newly developed multi-scale three-dimensional variational data assimilation (MS-3DVAR) system will be employed to deal with multiple spatial scales in the model and observations and also to more effectively assimilate multi-satellite altimetry data alongside sparse in-stiu observations, shore-based high-frequency radar velocities, and satellite sea surface temperatures (SSTs). After developing the capability to assimilate satellite altimetry measurements, the MS-3DVAR system will be delivered as part of a realtime system to be used in support of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) and the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS), which are operated as part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). This proposal directly responds to the OSTST research theme To explore operational applications of satellite altimetry with a requirement for near realtime delivery of data and data products.

Leveraging the capability developed to assimilate a variety of observations, a set of observing system experiments (OSEs) and observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) will be conducted to

  1. quantify the impact of the existing multi-satellite altimetry observations on ocean current predictions in addition to other available observations within the framework of an advanced observing system for the California coastal ocean;
  2. evaluate the relative importance of the altimetry data compared to in-situ observations, HF radar velocities, and satellite SSTs in data assimilation;
  3. characterize the impact of satellite altimetry on the predictability of ocean currents;
  4. identify the major factors limiting current forecast skill in ocean currents with the aim of improving the design and implementation of observing systems;
  5. optimize the MS-3DVAR system for assimilating future altimeter products, in particular, those acquired from wide-swath high-resolution altimetry.

This project also aims to improve our understanding of how the assimilation of multi-satellite altimetry improves the representation and prediction of meso-scale to submesoscale eddies.

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